Vertigo: where Cairo's corrupt get their comeuppance

Ahmed Mourad offers a steamy mix of political intrigue and shady dealings, with a slice of societal observation on the moral decline of contemporary Cairo.

Vertigo, Ahmed Mourad (translated by Robin Moger), Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, Dh69
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The blurb on the dust-jacket of this novel teases that "Vertigo … has been reprinted seven times in the original Arabic and translated into Italian". It's a promising sell to Ahmed Mourad's debut novel and the book emerges as a steamy mix of political intrigue and shady dealings, with a slice of societal observation on the moral decline of contempary Cairo.

Ahmed Kamal is the unfortunate protagonist thrust into the eye of the storm. After witnessing and inadvertently recording a friend's brutal death in the crossfire of an assassination, his life takes a downward detour into the city's murky underworld. Ahmed, it transpires, is made of sturdier stuff than initially appears and he goes on to tackle his high-society adversaries with a competence that could put a smile on the face of Dumas's Count of Monte Cristo.

Is Vertigo a work of groundbreaking proportions? Not quite. But what it does deliver is the usual thrills and spills worthy of a good pulp-fiction romp. If filthy-rich no-gooders getting what they deserve is what you want to read, then you get that here with aplomb.

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